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President Marcos slams China Coast Guard detention threat

President Xi Jinping Meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People's Republic of China/Released)
June 01, 2024

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday accused Beijing of escalating tensions in the South China Sea (SCS) with its new policy authorizing the China Coast Guard (CCG) to detain what it considers to be trespassers in areas that it claims in the strategic waterway.

Speaking to reporters covering his state visit here, the President said the new policy was “very worrisome.” This was a week after he also called it “completely unacceptable.”

“The new policy of threatening to detain our own citizens, that is different. That is an escalation of the situation,” he said.

Beijing earlier this month said the CCG had been authorized to detain—for up to 60 days without trial—foreigners found trespassing into its territorial waters in the SCS.

It also warned that those “suspected of endangering national security and interests, disrupting public order, or engaging in other illegal criminal activities” could also be detained for up to 30 days.

At the media briefing on Wednesday, Marcos also said that Beijing’s four-month fishing ban in the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea, was “nothing new.”

“Well, it’s just an extension again of their claim that this is all the maritime territory of China,” he said.

Diplomatic protest

The Philippines earlier this week filed a diplomatic protest against China’s annual fishing moratorium in the SCS, a ban it was extending to the country’s exclusive economic zone. The ban supposedly took effect on May 1 and would last until Aug. 16.

The President said the government was trying all options to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea, particularly at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, sites of recurring tensions between Manila and Beijing.

Asked if there were any meetings or back-channel efforts to resolve “or to at least forge some sort of middle ground with China,” Marcos replied: “Yes, of course, there are. I have said it many times. You should try everything. You don’t know what effort is going to be successful.”

“So, as any point of contact that I can establish I will use it, and at every level, at the leaders’ level, at the ministerial, sub-ministerial, private as long as it gives us, brings us progress in terms of resolving these… Number one, to stop the aggressive actions such as water-cannoning and lasers and barrier putting et cetera,” he said.

For the fishermen

He said the negotiations should also include “allowing our fishermen to fish” in their traditional fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea.

“Let’s start with that. And if we can get to that, then we can move to the next step and to see if there is a way to resolve all these claims and so that we can all go about our business in a peaceful way and continue to try and develop our countries,” he said.

“There are always, always efforts at every level,” he added.

According to Marcos, the Philippines’ growing alliance with other nations proves that Manila is not alone in rejecting Beijing’s sweeping maritime claims.

“We have many allies. That’s how simple it is. Instead of just the Philippines’ voice, we have the voice of many, and that is always important,” he said.

Defense summit

The President’s latest remarks critical of China came two days ahead of his attendance at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asian defense summit organized in Singapore by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The summit gathers defense ministers, military leaders and senior security officials, as well as business leaders and security experts, from across the Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America. This year’s meeting is expected to draw 550 delegates from 40 countries.

Marcos, who will be the first Philippine President to speak at the forum, said his participation would be “highly significant.”

“I think the Philippines’ position is going to be very important in the decision-making of many of the policymakers around the world,” he said, referring to Manila’s stand in the SCS dispute.


(c) 2024 the Asia News Network

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